What “Microdosing” Really Means: A Physician’s Response to the THC Microdosing Trend




There’s a new catchphrase word circulating in the cannabis world: microdosing. This trendy term is being used to describe low doses of THC at or under 10 mg. But is microdosing really a thing?

According to published scientific literature, the term “microdose” applies to a sub-therapeutic dose—that is, a dose of a drug or compound that has no effect. These sub-therapeutic doses are often used in research, but have no role in treating patients clinically since they are ineffective. Based on this definition, doses of THC that are therapeutically beneficial to the user, despite being low doses under 10 mg, are not microdoses.

Take, for example, dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC that is prescribed by physicians to patients suffering from nausea and suppressed appetite from chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS. This pill is available in doses of 2.5 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg—doses at which studies show beneficial effects. These are recommended therapeutic doses of THC, not “microdoses.” (Author’s note: I am not advocating use of this pill over plant THC. When it comes to cannabinoids, I believe plants before pills.)

If microdosing, by definition, is a sub-therapeutic dose then why are people using this term?

It appears that cannabis users are merely confusing medicinal doses and recreational doses.

Consumers who are accustomed to higher doses of THC are a good example. A 10 mg dose might seem very low (micro, even). However, as explained in my book, Cannabis Revealed, there are medical doses of THC and there are recreational doses of THC. The difference is that the goal of a medical dose is to relieve a medical symptom and the goal of a recreational dose is intoxication.

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For some patients, the dose of THC that relieves their medical condition is not intoxicating; for others, it is the intoxicating effect that helps with the relief. Medicating is a very individual experience that varies person-to-person. When 10 mg or less of THC is effective for a patient, there is nothing “micro” about that amount—it is simply the dose that happens to work best for them.

Cannabis users who are employing low doses of THC may find perks such as enriched creativity, better mood and enhancement of everyday activities such as yoga sessions, meals and sex. Although some might say these are not “medical” benefits, others disagree. Taking pleasure in everyday activities is crucial to having a good quality of life.

Endocannabinoid Tone, Homeostatic Dose, and How THC Helps You Feel Balanced

In recent years, the medical community has largely acknowledged that THC can be medicinally beneficial to a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Recent research has shown a deeper understanding of how cannabis and your body work together.

The THC dose that a particular person responds best to depends on their “endocannabinoid tone”—that is, the status of their endocannabinoid system, the internal environment of the body that works to maintain homeostasis balance.

The endocannabinoid system is a complex biological system located throughout the human brain and body. It has the crucial role of making sure conditions are just right, ensuring optimum cellular performance. One curiously intriguing component of this system is called an endocannabinoid. It resembles the THC molecule so closely that it has been referred to as our “inner cannabis.” This system is vital to our overall well-being and is described as “essential to life, relating messages that affect how we relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect,” by the noted endocannabinoid researcher, Vincenzo Di Marzo.

Clinical research shows that some people are deficient in their endocannabinoids, leading to an imbalance in this system. This imbalance can manifest as various symptoms that can include chronic pain (i.e., migraines and fibromyalgia), anxiety and depression, seizures, gastrointestinal distress and other serious conditions. Taking THC to replace the endocannabinoid deficiency is the bedrock that supports the usage of cannabis as medicine, much like a Type I diabetic replaces their insulin deficiency with external insulin shots. By augmenting the endocannabinoid system with plant cannabinoids such as THC, balance can be restored.

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Furthermore, how someone responds to THC is quite personal and depends on their endocannabinoid tone. Some people find that higher doses of THC help them to maintain homeostasis and well-being. Others find that lower doses of THC help them to feel balanced. When someone reports that a specific amount of THC makes them feel balanced, they have found their “homeostatic dose.” This is a better term than microdosing, as it accounts for the therapeutic effects, no matter the dose.

Words like “endocannabinoid tone” and “homeostatic dose” don’t sound as buzzworthy as “microdose” (try hashtagging #endocannabinoiddeficiency), but when it comes to your health and well-being, the words we use and how we use them matter. Each person must determine what THC dose is the most therapeutic for themselves — not by listening to the online buzz.



By Bonni Goldstein| April 24, 2018
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Bonni Goldstein

Bonni Goldstein

Bonni Goldstein, M.D. is a Los Angeles-based physician and medical advisor for Weedmaps, the world's first and largest cannabis technology company, where users can search for medicinal cannabis products. Dr. Goldstein has successfully treated thousands of adult and pediatric patients with cannabis and is the author of Cannabis Revealed, a text that focuses on the science behind using cannabis as medicine.


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